Inclusive communication

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Inclusive communication refers to discourse that encourages some students while discouraging others. When non-inclusive communication is used in the classroom, often times underrepresented students are less likely to participate and contribute in the classroom.

Examples of Non-Inclusive Communication

Who: Roberta M. Hall and Bernice R. Sandler

What: Compiled information demonstrating the impact of non-inclusive communication in the classroom.

How: An example of non-inclusive communication practiced in the classroom is the use of non-parallel terminology. Often times, faculty will refer to males in a classroom as "men" where areas the females in the classroom will be referred to as "girls" or "gals". The use of such terminology provides the implication that women are "less serious and less capable" than men, in turn marginalizing women in the classroom. Another example of such behavior is apparent when a faculty member may "coach" men to a higher degree in comparison to women. For instance, by encouraging a male student to elaborate on a topic by stating "Tell me more about that" while not doing the same for women.

Sandler and Hall briefly mention a few variables which cause students of color to feel uncomfortable participating in the classroom. For instance, some students of color may hesitate to answer a question or ask for help if they believe by doing so may confirm the stereotype that they are ill-prepared or less able. This belief goes hand in hand with the belief that they should accomplish tasks on their own. They may also be concerned that their performance is reflective of the performance of all people of color. Another issue, specifically with women of color, is the clash between cultural values and classroom interactions. "American Indian, Latino, and Asian-American students (particularly women) mentioned cultural prescriptions against speaking up in class...."

Evidence: Sandler and Hall's research demonstrated that biased language used by faculty resulted in low rates of participation by women. Female students stated that when attempting to communicate with faculty, many times they were interrupted, provided little eye contact, and offered little guidance or criticism in the classroom. Hall and Sandler provide a number of recommendations for undergraduate professors in order to avoid non-inclusive communication.

The study can be found here

How to Promote Inclusive Communication

  • "Make a specific effort to call directly on women as well as on men students"
  • "Assume an attentive posture when responding to women's questions or listening to their comments."
  • "Use the same tone in talking with women as with men students"
  • "Note patterns of interruption to determine if women students are interrupted more than men-either by yourself or by other students."
  • "Use parallel terminology when addressing women and men students in class, or referring to men and women in classroom examples."
  • "Watch for and respond to nonverbal cues that indicate women students' readiness to participate in class."

To see more recommendations click here and scroll to "The Chilly Climate."